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Mandela’s Way

Lessons on Life

By Richard Stengel
21-minute read
Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life by Richard Stengel

This book is about the inspiring personality traits of Nelson Mandela. It shows us how to develop a similar strength of character, so that, no matter what obstacles life throws in our path, we can overcome the challenges, forgive our oppressors, understand the complexity of human nature, fight for our core principles and thereby succeed in changing society for the better.

  • Anyone in a leadership position who wishes to learn about great leadership 
  • Anyone who wishes to learn how to face the trials of life
  • Anyone who wants to know how Nelson Mandela became one of the most inspirational figures of the twentieth century

Richard Stengel is the co-author of Mandela’s bestselling autobiography – Long Walk to Freedom – and was a close friend to him. For three years he spent almost every day with Mandela, sharing some of his most intimate and challenging moments.

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Mandela’s Way

Lessons on Life

By Richard Stengel
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Contains 13 key ideas
Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life by Richard Stengel
Synopsis

This book is about the inspiring personality traits of Nelson Mandela. It shows us how to develop a similar strength of character, so that, no matter what obstacles life throws in our path, we can overcome the challenges, forgive our oppressors, understand the complexity of human nature, fight for our core principles and thereby succeed in changing society for the better.

Key idea 1 of 13

Courage is not fearlessness. Courage is learning to cope with fear.

At certain times, we all wish we had been born “naturally” courageous. But none of us is born without fear. The same was true for Nelson Mandela; he learned at an early age that he was not born fearless – fear was something he would have to learn to deal with.

Dealing with our fears – being courageous – is a choice and it was at age 16 that Mandela first made this choice.

He was 16 when he participated in a traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony – lining up with other boys to be circumcised by a frightening man wielding a large blade. Each boy bravely shouted, “I am a man,” immediately after being “chopped,” but when it was Mandela’s turn, the agony forced him to hesitate for some moments before he could shout out those symbolic words.

This humiliating experience convinced him that he was not born with courage, but he pledged to himself that he would never again falter – he would learn to conquer his fears.

Conquering fear means looking strong, even when you are afraid. Pretending to be brave is bravery. Mandela showed this time and time again. He became a great leader simply by always appearing courageous.

A great example of this was a flight in a small plane across South Africa when an engine failure forced an emergency landing. The bodyguard who’d accompanied him during the flight afterwards described with amazement how calm Mandela had been while their lives were endangered. He simply read the newspaper. Mandela himself, however, later confessed in private that he’d been truly terrified but refused to show it!

Because courage is a choice, everyone can be courageous. It doesn’t mean risking your life. It means learning to cope with your anxieties and fears every day. Mandela’s ability to hide his fear was calming and comforting to many of his companions and followers; it is an inspiring leadership trait that we can all develop.

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